With a ‘strap-line’ that states we are the UK’s Leading Ethical Coaching Company, I’m often asked what does that actually mean?
What are Ethics?
At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society, which can often also be described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
What are Business Ethics?
By definition, business ethics are the moral principles that act as guidelines for the way a business conducts itself and its transactions. In many ways, the same guidelines that individuals use to conduct themselves in an acceptable way, in personal and professional settings; apply to businesses as well.
Determining Right and Wrong
Acting ethically ultimately means determining what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Basic standards exist around the world that dictate what is wrong or unethical in terms of business practices. For example, unsafe working conditions are generally considered unethical because they put workers in danger. An example of this is a crowded work space with only one means of exit. In the event of an emergency such as a Fire, people could become trapped, or trampled as every rushes to a single point of exit.
Likewise, knowingly defrauding employees of entitlement, owing to either lack of education or sharing of information would also constitute a poor ethical judgement.
While some unethical business practices are obvious or true for companies around the world, they do still occur. Determining what practices are ethical or not is more difficult determine if they exist in a grey area where the lines between ethical and unethical can become blurred or undetermined by best business practice, and what is considered ‘acceptable’.
For example, assume Company A works with a contact at Company B, an individual through which they negotiate all the prices for supplies they buy from Company B. Company A naturally wants to get the best prices on the supplies. When the individual from Company B comes to their office to negotiate a new contract, they put him up in a top-tier hotel, in the very best suite, and make sure that all his wants and needs are met while he’s there.
In technical terms, the practice is not illegal. However, it might be considered a grey area – close to, but not quite, bribery – because the individual is then likely to be more inclined to give Company A a price break at the expense of getting the best deal for his own company.
Likewise, a company that exploits its marketing prowess across social media to capture data with the sole intent to manipulate peoples thinking (or voting patterns in the case of Cambridge Analytica) was determined that whilst no CRIME had been committed in doing so, the impact of such resulted in the first-ever time a company has been tried in a court of law where this was considered ‘psychological warfare!’.
Understanding Ethics in Three Parts
To really understand ethics, we have to acknowledge there are also layers.
At the primary level, there is RULE Consciousness
These are often determined by law or people’s civic duty. They are the parameters of acceptance within either geography or society. You might argue ‘That speed Cameras fall into this, whereby there is an acceptance that a restriction to a certain speed is required, and a measure of rule applied to ensure compliance.
Another example of this might be Jury Service. Whereby predominantly any adult (less those with a criminal record) can be called upon to assist the Legal profession in determining what is or isn’t accepted by society.
The next layer would be considered social consciousness
This is more a moral code of conduct and determined by what is ‘right’. “Doing the right thing” However, this in itself is very subjective to which particular society or part of society is determining this.
An example of this might be: noticing someone drop money on the floor and choosing to return it to them. Or perhaps offering assistance to someone with whom you can see may be struggling. But would also include not being influenced by society or socials to deviate from your own standards in order to be ‘accepted’ or ‘falling into alignment’ with others.
You might also consider including the LIVE 8 concert an extreme example of this. Where social influencers gathered together to influence a generation (and many political leaders) to review and redress their attitude and behaviour towards others.
The HIGHEST level of Ethics is referred to as Principle consciousness and refers only to SELF.
Here, it is about being clear on your own values and moral principles and ensuring you remain true to them at all times.
Understanding Business Ethics in Three Parts
To truly break down business ethics, it’s important to understand the three basic components that the term can be dissected into.
The first part is history. While the idea of business ethics came into existence along with the creation of the first companies or organisations, what is most often referred to by the term is its recent history since the early 1970s. This was when the term became commonly used in the United States and subsequently the world over. The main principles of business ethics are based in academia and on academic writings on proper business operations. Basic ethical practices have been gleaned through research and practical study of how businesses function, and how they operate, both independently and with one another. In this sense, the considerations and theories are based on the aspects of ‘fair play’ and what is considered the ‘norm’ and how close or far people and companies operate within this.
The second major meaning behind the term is derived from its close relationship and usage when scandals occur. Companies selling goods that were created using child labour or poor working conditions is one such scandalous occurrence that has led to being labelled as poor ethical standards. Likewise, the exploitation of people because of their colour, creed, sexuality, and religion is now considered either illegal or at least poor ethical standards.
Other examples of this, are where a business professes to support one thing, whilst clearly practising something else. Such as businesses that claim to have environmentally friendly products/services/practices, whilst knowingly shipping their waste to other parts of the world to create the mass landfill mountains we now see many living on within places like India and China.
Perhaps the most recent and continually developing aspect of ethics is the third piece – the idea that companies are building business ethics into the core of their companies, making them a standard part of their operational blueprint. As the world continues to grow more political (and more politically correct) an increased focus on the width and depth of business ethics and strong adherence to them become ever more scrutinised.
Business ethics are important for every company. They keep workers safe, help trade and interactions between companies remain honest and fair, and generally make for better goods and services. Distinguishing what a company will and won’t stand for is not always the same for each Organisation, but knowing basic ethical guidelines is a key component of company management.
What are the 7 principles of ethics in business?
- Honesty: The willingness and openness to remain honest.
- Integrity: Doing what is ‘right’ not just what is ‘expected’.
- Promise-Keeping & Trustworthiness: Setting and living up to expectation
- Loyalty: Remaining true to People not just Profit
- Fairness: Demonstrating a ‘live and let live’ culture, not winner takes all
- Concern/Respect for Others: Recognising impact and supporting communities
- Law Abiding: Both Criminal, Civil and Moral!
One of the best and easiest ways I have found to form and live by a set of Ethical Values is by belief if a higher purpose. Whether you are religious or not, this could be as simple as the impact your business has on others – Your family, your employees (and their families) the local community, your region, industry, country?
For me personally, I found my faith alongside the Bosna River, at the foothills of Mount Igman in Bosnia. As a former soldier of the British Army, I was deployed to Bosnia during the conflict. Having previously attended an ‘Alpha’ Course through a local Church group where our regiment was based. I was stationed alongside the padre of the regiment and spent many an hour discussing faith throughout the tour.
Since then, I have found the bible contains many of the best principles on which to build a successful business. The following principles have helped me, and will help any leader grow their business impact far beyond that of a happy shareholder!
1. Practice taking the Second Step
Go a little further. Always do more than anticipated and expected. Surprise others by paying attention to the little things that others don’t. Be different.
A principle that is helpful in building a business is the principle of going the second mile. Good companies develop a second-mile mentality. In business, we need to separate ourselves so that others can see our business more clearly. Too many companies expect second-mile results without giving second-mile effort. It is always a good idea to do more than expected.
2. The Golden rule works, If you work it
Make People First Things. Think of others first. Treat others like you want to be treated. Practice thoughtfulness. When you think of the customers, they will think of you.
Many great businesses use this principle as the foundation for their business. The concept is to consider others first. The wise business leader and business will always treat others as they would like to be treated. – Companies that don’t think of their customers will not be thought of by their customers.
3. Focus on profit with a Purpose
Know your priorities. Live life and run your business with purpose and vision. Profit is powerful. Profit used well can lead to both success and significance. Attract others to your Mission and your Dream. Always Explain your Why.
Every successful business creates profits. It is often quoted in business circles that you don’t have a business until you have a profit. Every company has been established and designed to create a profit. However, Ethical Business leaders understand that the wrong profit can be damaging. There is little point in owning all the wealth in the world, if nobody is willing to accept your coin. Therefore, whilst profit is Good, Profit used for Good is Better
4. Know your Yeses and your No’s.
Be decisive and make great decisions. Make decisions based on values. Know You “No’s.” Say Yes to those things that will make you and your organisation better. Live up to your Word. Make your signature mean something. Fulfil your commitments.
Great Decisiveness is a key to influential leadership. People cannot follow a person that does not know where they are going or why they are going in the direction that they are going. The power to say yes or no quickly means that you know where you are going and what you are trying to accomplish. Make your words mean something. Develop and build trust relationships by conveying to others that they can count on you and your commitments.
Many leaders lose their influence with others because they commit to aspirational yeses. Leaders must know their “no’s” and be quick to say yes or no.
5. Make the move From Owner to Overseer
Practice steward leadership. Use the resources wisely. An essential shift for Ethical business leaders is moving from ownership to stewardship. True success comes not from what you achieve, but in the legacy, you leave behind to others. It should be the desire of every Ethical business owner to be recognised not for what they own, but for what they helped others to achieve.
6. Trust the law of sowing and reaping
Sow liberally. Be generous with your seeds. Plant daily. Be constantly trying new things. Don’t be afraid to start small. Practice patience.
Laws of life can be trusted because they have been proven through time. Successful businesses know and trust the law of sowing and reaping. Remember, a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” Don’t be afraid of starting with a small seed. The harvest you are reaping today is from the seeds that you planted yesterday.
7. Believe and ask for the Impossible.
Dream Big Impossible Dreams. Set big goals. Stretch yourself and your team. Find new ways to look at old problems. Embrace belief. Everything great starts with a dream. The world is better when people dream big and believe that impossible things can happen. Challenge yourself to ask “what if” questions and use your imagination to see the world in new and different ways. People desire to be with leaders and organisations who have big visions. to A big vision inspires and attracts. Supersize your thoughts and your beliefs. – What seems impossible to one, is possible with many.
8. Build to the 4th Generation
Work on big 7-year projects. (I’ve written about this more, in a blog entitled the 7 year itch) Always do the right thing. Know your core values and beliefs. Be forward-thinking. Make decisions with tomorrow in mind. Prepare for the future by making the right decision today. Know your foundation.
Don’t waste time building things that won’t last the test of time. Building on the right foundation will help your business stand through the storms of market changes. A key to building a great business is to act with integrity in all situations. Integrity means doing the right thing in all situations at all times. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that “The time is always right to do what is right.” Businesses that are built on a solid foundation are built to last generations. Companies that lack a solid foundation are built on slippery ground that can crumble at any time. – Our destiny unfolds in the future, but it is shaped by the decisions that we make today.
9. Know the order of things and Work the Order
Strive for clarity. Know your priorities. Order is important. When a leader understands the order of things, things become easier to understand. A great principle to practice in business is to focus on the first things. When a leader understands the order of things, things can become easier to understand. A leader must be clear and push for clarity in all things.
10. Improve your Team to improve your Organisation
Find the right and best people to bring around you. Make people your top priority. Learn from everyone. Spend time with a wise team of mentors. Learn faster by learning from others. Ask questions and listen. Seek counsel. Help people to discover their gifts and talents. Find passionate and reliable people.
Great leaders learn from others to learn faster. You need a team around you to inspire you and help you build something bigger than you can build alone. No great leader ever led alone. Find your passion and add passionate people to your team. A passionate person is worth four regular people. Passionate people perform better. In fact, not only have they formed with a purpose, every person on their team has been formed with a purpose. When a company finds the gifts and passions of their people and discern how to release those passions, then higher productivity is enjoyed by the person and the company. Passionate people are reliable people. The wisdom of others can be powerful. Every great leader has at least one advisor. However, many business leaders try to do things all on their own. In fact, it is often said that it is lonely at the top. It is only lonely at the top if you are trying to lead alone. Steward leaders believe in the power of others. – When your people get better your organisation gets better.
11. Do things today that will impact today AND tomorrow
Invest wisely. Don’t forget to invest in yourself. Make the right investments to help the business to grow. Invest in your people. Invest to grow your commitment and your passion.
Leaders are called to lead with passion or all of their heart. Therefore, a leader must make investments wisely. Leaders in businesses are called upon to make many investments. A leader must make use of the resources of the company to make the right investments in the business, people, and infrastructure. When businesses are invested in wisely, the business will grow. Good investments set the direction and the path of a business to ensure its growth and development. When a business is neglected, it is doomed to shrink and die.
12. Work to Well Done
Excellent work is worthy work. Do everything for a bigger purpose and a noble cause. Innovate. Always improve and strive to make products and service better. Always Upgrade and Improve. Think long term. Show Your Value Through Products and Services that are of High Quality.
Building a business on these principles requires a change of perspective. One essential attitude that is essential for Ethical Leaders is to practice excellence at all times and in all situations. When you work towards excellence in everything you are on your way to hearing the “well done” from your employees, your customers, and all who are impacted by it.
It is on these principles I have formed and run my business. And, on which we were recognised and awarded the title “Ethical Coaching Company” at the ‘Clear Business Thinking’ Awards 2017.
It takes time, consideration, collaboration and guts to review. And if required, amend the very fabric of a business. This is NOT an overnight choice or something to present to the workforce on a Monday morning. It has often taken some of the biggest companies a generation to review and amend their vision and values and make the relevant and necessary adjustments to become more values-based, ethical entities. But, for those who do, the future isn’t just bright, it’s eternal.
I’d welcome your thoughts and comments, so please drop me a line below. And, if you are ready to do what it takes to build a Significant and Sustainable SCALE business? Then get in-touch, and of course, the first call is on me! Click here to book a call now.